17 April 2020

Pambula Beach locals work together to save drowning wallaby chased by dogs

| Elka Wood
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Lions Park Beach

Lions Park Beach is one of the few dog-friendly beaches on the South Coast. Photo: Sapphirecoast.com.au.

Pambula Beach’s dog-off-leash area, known as Lions Park Beach or Jiguma Beach, saw some wildlife rescue action over the Easter weekend as locals worked together to save a wallaby which had been flushed out of the bush by two unattended border collies and chased into the sea.

Bega Valley Shire Council Acting Director of Community, Environment and Planning Keith Tull said the incident has served as a reminder of the importance of responsible pet ownership and control, even in dog-off-leash-areas.

“Responsible pet ownership means keeping the community and our wildlife safe. It’s disappointing when incidents like this occur. Not only is it distressing for our wildlife, it’s upsetting for the public, and particularly children, to witness,” Keith said.

Pambula local Kate Liston-Mills was at Jigama Beach with her dog and family at the time and saw the incident unfold.

“Locals know that the beach is surrounded by national park and bush,” Kate said. “I take my dog to the beach all the time but I’d never let him go into the bush because so many animals live and breed there.”

While her current pet is a sedate golden retriever, Kate has had border collies in the past and says she first noticed a loud barking she identified as “the collie chase bark”.

“I looked around and saw a woman on the phone with two leashes over her arm, she was talking animatedly on the phone, using her hands to gesture and she appeared oblivious. I immediately thought: where are her dogs?

When Kate turned around, she saw “two dogs flying down the track, following a frantic wallaby”.

“I felt sick. Border collies are fast. I turned and started running after the woman on the phone to see if I could get her to call her dogs.”

As Kate pursued the presumed owner of the dogs, others on the beach watched in horror as the dogs and wallaby made another lap of the beach and the wallaby eventually fled into the surf at the rivermouth end of Jigama Beach.

“I didn’t see the wallaby go into the sea, I was chasing the woman,” Kate explained. “I thought the wallaby had got away until I saw it’s little head bobbing in the waves, going farther out to sea.”

The woman, still talking on the phone, disappeared down the track before Kate could hail her and, meanwhile, a man on the beach was getting suited up to do a wallaby rescue.

“I was calculating how fast I could run home, get my board and wetty and get out there, and realising I didn’t have enough time, I was so grateful to see this legend on his Mal heading out towards the wallaby.”

Council reports that the rescue was carried out by two off-duty National Parks and Wildlife staff who live nearby.

“Council wished to acknowledge the quick-thinking work of the two whose actions led to the wallaby’s survival after it was cared for overnight by WIRES,” Keith said.

Kate heard that the wallaby was so exhausted and terrified it swam towards the surfer and willingly got onto his board.

“The wallaby was not in a good state when they arrived on the beach but people were putting clothes over him and then WIRES came.”

The owner of the dogs was not identified or notified of the incident.

For Kate, although watching the chase was distressing, she said that the way everyone worked together, adhering to COVID-19 social distancing the whole time, was heartening.

“Everyone worked together safely. It was pretty funny, on reflection, how everyone was spaced along the beach, yelling at each other. The effort put in to save one wallaby was amazing, it makes me feel very hopeful about humanity.”

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Barbara Eglitis8:07 pm 23 Apr 20

Wonderful, well done everyone, but the stupid woman who let the dogs go needs to be told to keep an eye on where her dogs are and what they are doing.

Marianne Kambouridis5:17 pm 23 Apr 20

We are a very caring community here. So proud to live here with our wonderful locals, wildlife and bushland. I do think that this dog owner should really be fined for allowing her dogs to get to that stage and to overtly ignore what’s in front of her!

Dogs should never, ever be on a beach – leashed or not!

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